By LARRY VAUGHT
It was almost like a homecoming at the Marshall County Hoopfest when Auburn coach Bruce Pearl came to watch several recruiting targets including Mississippi point guard Daeshun Ruffin and California perimeter player Jalen Green, a top five player nationally.
No matter how many people — and they were all ages both male and female — wanting an autograph or picture, they all seem to have a favorite Bruce Pearl story to share with him.
He said to remember he coached at the University of Southern Indiana just outside Evansville where he coached against Kentucky Wesleyan in Owensboro. He’s been head coach at Tennessee and now Auburn, both Southeastern Conference schools that that play Kentucky.
“Tennessee was a huge rival and this place (Marshall County) is close to Tennessee and now obviously they know me from Auburn,” Pearl said. “So everybody has an old Bruce Pearl story and I enjoy listening to them and spending time with fans.
“When they stop wanting your picture or asking for an autograph, you have to worry about it.”
Pearl has been to Marshall County Hoopfest so often that he has a favorite nearby restaurant, Patti’s, that is known for its huge pork chops, flower pot bread, strawberry butter and meringue pies. Between games last Saturday Pearl said he “grabbed a pork chop” at Patti’s.
“The hospitality at this even is always great, which is part of the reason you get great programs and great players here year after year,” Pearl said. “I think people do look forward to seeing Cal (Kentucky coach John Calipari) come in like he did Thursday night and (Louisville) coach Mack. They like seeing the coaches.”
Western Kentucky, Evansville, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Ohio State were some of the other schools that sent coaches to scout talent.
Pearl knew the players he wanted to watch, but also closely paid attention to all six games he watched because he says it’s not unusual to spot a player he knew nothing about before he got to a showcase like Marshall County Hoopfest.
“That happens to me a lot in recruiting.There are certainly a couple of key guys you come to watch but you have to keep your eye out for that kid you might not know about but end up being really glad you found out about him. There are always so many great players here that you just have to keep your eyes open to find guys that might be the right fits for your team,” Pearl said.